review and cover mani: monsoon mansion

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Told with a lyrical, almost-dreamlike voice as intoxicating as the moonflowers and orchids that inhabit this world, Monsoon Mansion is a harrowing yet triumphant coming-of-age memoir exploring the dark, troubled waters of a family’s rise and fall from grace in the Philippines. It would take a young warrior to survive it.

Cinelle Barnes was barely three years old when her family moved into Mansion Royale, a stately ten-bedroom home in the Philippines. Filled with her mother’s opulent social aspirations and the gloriously excessive evidence of her father’s self-made success, it was a girl’s storybook playland. But when a monsoon hits, her father leaves, and her mother’s terrible lover takes the reins, Cinelle’s fantastical childhood turns toward tyranny she could never have imagined. Formerly a home worthy of magazines and lavish parties, Mansion Royale becomes a dangerous shell of the splendid palace it had once been.

In this remarkable ode to survival, Cinelle creates something magical out of her truth—underscored by her complicated relationship with her mother. Through a tangle of tragedy and betrayal emerges a revelatory journey of perseverance and strength, of grit and beauty, and of coming to terms with the price of family—and what it takes to grow up.





That could honestly be my entire review because…wow. 

While reading, I had to remind myself this wasn’t a work of fiction. Cinelle Barnes’s enchanting voice had me nodding my head in a particular way (moving backwards with a twist) which happens when I know I’ve picked up one of those books. You know, where it’s clear on the first page that I’ll lose myself in the story, ignoring other tasks like feeding hungry dogs who can’t understand why their supper is late because I’m within reaching distance to the food yet won’t remove my nose from the page. In this case, my poor pups really didn’t stand a chance because Barnes’s voice mesmerized me, quite literally, from that very first page. Lush descriptions of the Philippines and the luxury of her early childhood when Mansion Royale preened in all of its glory, and the lyrical narrative transported me directly into the Cinelle’s world with whimsical yet grounded storytelling that felt like a privilege to read. 

Cover Design by Faceout Studio, Tim Green
Cover Illustration by Xinmei Liu

Essentially on her own when it came to providing safety and security, Barnes’s story reminded me of A Little Princess, because imagination was an invaluable asset in her unstable life. No matter what, Cinelle never stopped dreaming. As her situation became increasingly dire, my tears making it a challenge to continue reading, Barnes did what she had to in order to survive. My heart broke several times over, and I was continuously humbled by her astonishing ability to craft such a painful story and be brave enough to share it with the world. I don’t know if I would be. But there were also moments of humour and hope, kindness and grace--a wonder, considering the circumstances. 

Ultimately uplifting (in a triumph of the human spirit kind of way) if you love memoirs that don’t hold back and stunningly elegant writing that stays with you long after you finish the last page, I highly recommend MONSOON MANSION. Also, I’d be remiss without mentioning the gorgeous jacket (along with the book itself!), so you definitely need a copy on your bookshelf because hello beautiful! Five super enthusiastic stars, plus all the stars in the universe, so basically infinity stars. 

Big thanks to Cinelle Barnes and Amazon Publishing for a finished copy!


For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

China Glaze – All Sun & Games, Water-Falling In Love, Werk It Honey, and Baroque Jungle

OPI – My Dogsled is a Hybrid, Malaga Wine, Stay Off the Lawn, CIA = Color Is Awesome, A Good Man-Darin Is Hard to Find, and matte topcoat

ORLY – Scandal and Storyteller (custom colour)

Glisten and Glow – Mother Terra and topcoat

Picture polish – instinct

So Nailicious – needle brush

1 comment:

  1. Lovely! I love the cover of this book and you captured it so well! The colors pop! And the hibiscus looks so cool!


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